Front Page Titles (by Subject) Political or Voluntary Ecology? - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Political or Voluntary Ecology? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Political or Voluntary Ecology?
“Recycling Hobbes: the Limits to Political Ecology.” The Massachussetts Review 20(Spring 1979):9–40.
The ecology movement stands as one of the enduring contributions of 1960s' populism to the political and social consciousness of the nation. Efforts aimed at protecting and preserving the environment have continued unabated into the 1980s. Nonetheless, Prof. Holsworth seeks to demonstrate in his article that a significant difference of political ethos separates the grassroots exponents of ecology during the 1960s from the more scientifically-oriented spokesmen for the movement today. An ecologically sound, yet humane society in the future is possible.
“In the ‘Sixties’,” Prof. Holsworth writes, “the idea of democratic competence was infused with a practical and effective richness rarely seen in our history. This permitted the environmental movement to escape the suffocating boundaries of the conservation movement and to nourish a political analysis which espoused organized citizen action as the antidote to public decision-making by private concerns.”
In the late 1970s, however, concerns of political ecologists shifted their focus from awareness and action on a mass scale to technical proposals for ecological management which rely heavily upon elitist control and authoritarian government for their effectiveness. Writers such as Paul Ehrlich, Garrett Hardin, Robert Heilbroner, and William Ophuls combine scientific expertise with a catastrophist mentality which envisages the destruction of the human race as an imminent possibility. They counsel firm and immediate measures to avert this threat. At the same time, they hold an almost Hobbesian view of human stupidity, and rapaciousness which makes them despair of men's ability to desist from self-aggrandizement, even when their own survival requires it.
Holding high the banner of “competence” as the legitimizing principle of authority, these new political ecologists envision a Leviathan-like state replete with “macro-constraints” and “micro-freedoms.” The latter are limited to those “personal” areas which exert a minimal impact on the larger society. Prof. Holsworth points out, however, that the personal is political. Individual desires, hopes, fears, and manners of living are connected to our social and political mores. Ringing calls for limitations on “the right to breed” (a seemingly obvious micro-freedom) highlight the impossibility of separating the two realms.
If there is to be an alternative to meager survival through despotic constraint, Prof. Holsworth suggests that an alternate view of human nature is essential. His view emphasizes the basically social character of human beings. Far from being self-serving barbarians who must be drubbed into obedience for their own good, human beings demonstrate a capacity for cooperation which makes popular participation, not elitist control, the more humane and ultimately more successful option for any future society. Even in our own day, citizens acting in concert have brought about many of the ecological movement's most significant victories.
By mobilizing the potent force of popular participation, we will also do much to foster those social values whose absence has caused many of our environmental difficulties, values such as community decision-making, farsightedness, compassion, and the equality of classes. With a revitalized and flourishing public life, Prof. Holsworth feels confident that we can run the race against environmental destruction, not as isolated competitors nor as obedient footmen, but as friends eager to encourage those who falter and to minister to those who stumble.
War, Peace, and Empire
In Art and Social Responsibility (London: The Falem Press Limited, 1946), dedicated to Sir Herbert Read, Alex Comfort identifies mankind's chief enemies as death and political power:
“The romantic recognizes a perpetual struggle upon two levels, the fight against Death . . .and the struggle against those men and institutions who ally themselves with Death against humanity, the struggle against barbarism. These are the two subjects of the Breugal paintings,The Triumph of Death and The Massacre of the Holy Innocents. In the first, a gigantic host of skeletons are riding down manhood. In the second, the Duke of Alva's soldiers are butchering Flemish peasants and their children . . .. These are the enemies of humanity, and of the standards of beauty and of truth which exist only for and in humanity—Death and Death's ally, irresponsibility.”
A similar protest against the inhumane forces of destructive political power and war is repeated both in Picasso's Guernica and on the right panel of Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delight. In the modern nuclear age, the potential devastation to civilian population from warfare baffles comprehension. The following summaries dealing with the issues of war, peace, and foreign policy show the sobering interaction of state power and the intimidation of death. The focal point may vary—oil diplomacy, Indian policy, dollar diplomacy, the progressives and imperialism, war technology, atomic warfare, or Vietnam—but the recurrent theme is power and the risk of warfare and death.